Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics
MIDDLEBURY, Vt. - Top-seeded Middlebury broke open a one-goal game with a pair of tallies in the final quarter, as the Panthers topped No. 7 Hamilton 3-0 on Saturday to advance to the NESCAC Championship for the ninth-straight season. Middlebury (16-1) moves into the finals on Sunday at noon against third-seeded Tufts, a 1-0 winner over fourth-seeded Williams in the other semifinal. The winner of the championship game earns an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Middlebury raced out to the early lead, cashing in on a penalty corner. Marissa Baker slid a short pass to the left side, where Emma Johns fired a low shot past Continental goalie Maggie Reville with 7:52 showing on the clock. Hamilton (9-8) had a scoring bid in the final minutes of the opening frame, but Middlebury's Sophia Peluso made a defensive save by the left post on a shot by Lizzie Clarke.
The teams engaged in a midfield battle in the second stanza, with the visitors getting a pair of late corners, only to come away empty to keep it a Panther 1-0 advantage at the half.
Middlebury controlled play in the third frame, with Erin Nicholas getting a chance from close range along the right end line resulting in save by Reville. The Panthers followed with three-straight penalty corners, while Reville made a tremendous kick save on the final opportunity by Johns with 2:14 showing on the clock.
The hosts struck for a pair of tallies 1:26 apart in the opening minutes of the final quarter. Baker picked off a Hamilton clearing attempt about 10 yards in front of the cage and deposited her fifth goal of the season behind Reville. The Panthers struck again moments later when Baker had her shot denied by Reville, but Danielle Brown cleaned up the rebound for a 3-0 cushion with 12:05 to play. The Continentals pressed to get on the scoreboard with three penalty corners in the final eight minutes, but Middlebury's defense preserved its seventh shutout of the season.
Panther keeper Grace Harlan finished with a pair of saves, while Reville had seven stops for Hamilton. Middlebury held an 11-8 advantage in shots, while boasting a 9-6 edge in penalty corners.
The Panthers extended their home winning streak to 33 games dating back to the 2017 season.